Empowered living is synonymous with living in the present moment. Concern over the future naturally begets anxiety. And most times, attachment to the past only keeps us from moving forward and growing. But living in the present moment is a challenge. That’s because of the way the world works. It’s often a cold and hostile place. And there’s little security, especially in some societies. So, we struggle. And we suffer and fail. We fret about tomorrow. And we’re haunted by the past. We do our best to rest in the present. But our present moments are often dominated by what’s already transpired what we fear might come to pass.
Living in the present moment is difficult for anyone. But it’s particularly challenging for abuse and toxic relationship survivors. Trauma leaves deep impressions. It changes our neurobiology. Remarkably, some folks are endowed with a better ability to recover. But many more folks bare the scars of trauma for years. Generally, it requires a heroic effort to wrest free of concern and rest in the present moment.
I’m really sensitive about issues related to living in the present moment. That’s why I decided to write about it last week. (See: The Power of the Present Moment.) That sensitivity comes from both personal and professional experience. I know very well what trauma can do to the brain and the psyche. And I was motivated to familiarize myself with the only known antidote.
All effective therapies (e.g., EMDR, exposure, desensitization, CBT, etc.) have one thing in common. They bring folks into the present moment in an atmosphere of safety. Pairing one’s present experience with safety helps reprogram the brain. Still, the trick is how to get into the present moment and stay there. I know the way I did it. And by today’s standards, it would be considered crude. But it worked. (It still does!) And I’ll be forever grateful. But for some, getting into and staying in the present moment is the task of a lifetime. Still, it’s the key to empowered living.
Last week some folks took issue with some of my word choices. And I understand why. But what I’ve come to know deeply is this: empowered living begins with choice. Sometimes, circumstances rightly have us thinking we have no choice. And even more tragic, sometimes almost all the choices we feel we have simply stink. That’s expecially true in cases of severe abuse. Victims know in their gut that the most dangerous time is when they seriously consider wresting free. And that knowledge leaves them feeling helpless and hopeless. But I am passionate about personal empowerment. So, despite the sensitivity of the subject, i can’t help but speak out clearly, directly, and unreservedly about the way forward.
Rehearsing the “Now”
What distinguishes us humans from all other creatures is our capacity to learn. We have these amazingly plastic and adaptive brains. And even the most traumatized brains can learn to recover. But neurobiological reprograming takes time and patience. And it takes dedication. Even more importantly, it takes doing differently. Doing the same old things only yields the same results. To change your life you must change yourself first. That means changing the way you see and do things. And while that’s pretty straighforward, it’s definitely not easy. Still, doing differently in the here and now is what personal empowerment is all about.
Making these changes is not an attractive proposition. And it seems so unfair. After all, toxic relationship survivors are used to doing all the suffering while their abusers seem to go scott free. But with time and dedicated rehearsing, you cultivate empowering habits. And when you remember the all-important task of self-reinforcing your efforts, it gets a bit easier. Sometimes, you have to change a thought or behavior on a minute-by-minute basis. But the eventual effect is the same. And over time, empowered living becomes more habitual.
I’ll have more to say on the importance of self-reinforcement next week. And you can read more about this subject in How Did We End Up Here?
5 thoughts on “Empowered Living in the Here and Now”
Some women have abusers who won’t ever stop hunting them. Maybe they take a break, maybe for awhile they allow the victim to believe she is free, but they’ll be back. It’s all about whether or not they believe they can get away with it, as jail/imprisonment is about the only deterrence.
There is no real safety. There will always be the real disempowerment of the victim at whichever moment the predators choose to return.
And other abusers/predators can sniff out the vulnerability and woundedness of pretraumatized victims. They hone such detection skills so as to find their next target. Studies have shown this. So victims are retraumatized and further victimized because other predators sense her past abuse/victimization and woundedness. That is reality. There is no escaping that. And that is why, when people often wonder why or how it is that a particular woman has abuser after abuser in her life, it’s not so much the victim’s doing, but rather it is a function of predators being drawn to sensed woundedness and therefore targeting her. If victims aren’t aware of this propensity for revictimization and further wounding, further abuse, then they might be prone to self-blame, which abusers (and society) already heap on victims.
I’m eager to see what are the techniques of self-reinforcement Dr. Simon mentions.
I encourage women to get guns. Maybe it’s not as feasible for those with small children, but carry a handgun at all times if you can. God’s blessings and God’s protection, combined with your own firepower, is about all the self-empowerment and protection a woman is afforded.
Babs and All,
I would encourage all to follow the link in which Dr. Simon speaks with other notable professionals in the field about narcissism/character disorder and how to heal.
I don’t understand how to live in the present moment. I go back to what my therapist says, What do you control in this situation? Well, of the choices given to me from the divorce agreement, here’s what I choose now. I feel belittled by how much my world has shrunk as a result of this. So I feel that when I do live in the moment, and make a decision (such as not move home near my family and remain in the town and set up my financial life around where my ex wants to live in to “coparent”), it’s this completely misdeveloped branch of the decision tree. There’s no way back. Then the cycle of regretting the past, ruminating begins again.
I am glad you have found Dr. Simons blog and I encourage you to follow and read the archives. I also welcome you to share your experiences, ask questions and just be you. Welcome…….
I feel for you going through all this, it isn’t easy at all. I am not sure where you are in the process and it is a process that one goes through. For many it is easy and for many long and difficult. One thing we do have power over is ourselves and I do understand it is difficult to feel and understand how we do have power and how to use it to regain ourselves and our life.
I do understand that after all the turmoil and ripping apart of our very being the difficulty to find balance and even contemplate where there is solid ground having had our fragile world shattered.
Know this, it will take time, how much time depends on many factors. Above all don’t give up, you have a major wound to heal and you must heal at your own pace not at anothers pace or criteria, we are all unique. Just be true to yourself and as a respected poster continually resounded “Know Thyself.” Perhaps, not her quote but a sound quote of truth.
Many times I look back and think “If Only” and that is OK, its part of the process. Its important to forgive yourself, its important to forgive others at your own pace, its important to make peace with the demons of the past, for when we understand and go forward at some point you will see how freeing all this is
Bab, never belittle yourself, many times grief and the frustration of not being able to do anything can harm our self worth more than it can heal. Now is the time to heal, to rise up and be the best you can be. Yes, it will take time, effort, pain and suffering and at the end you will shine, shine beyond your wildest imagination.
Bab, it will take time, it did for me too. How much time, well, it is different for everyone. Above all, don’t give up, baby steps are good, knee scrapes too, build your character, think of you, give to others, love others and you will rise above to become the beautiful person you are.
God Bless and hope you will trust us to share your story.
I try to live by the moment by focussing on the here and now. What confuses me is when I am accused or perceive being accused. I try to stay present to see if my reaction is a conditioned one from the past (in which case, I can choose whether or not to allow it or choose another way), but what happens when I honestly can’t tell? What if the speaker is right, and I am being overly sensitive and not hearing another person? But what if I can’t tell that I’m simply accepting a covert abuser’s tactical manipulation to put me down? Even though I’ve read Dr Simon’s previous articles about identifying covert aggressive tactics, I find it hard to tell. I can only tell the effect that some people’s words have on me, and staying in the present moment causes a welling up of grief. The best that I can do is allow it to pass. What am I missing, Dr Simon?